After the first pioneering years, during which it was discontinued multiple times, Milano-Torino became a permanent event in 1913. Shortly afterwards, Costante Girardengo – the first “Campionissimo” of Italian cycling – became its king.
Hailing from Novi Ligure and small in stature (hence his nickname, ‘l’omino di Novi’, which translates as ‘the little man from Novi’), he won five editions of the race, in 1914, 1915, 1919, 1920 and 1923.
In 1914, at a very young age, he outsprinted Giuseppe Azzini and Carlo Durando, after racing for 253 kilometres under the rain, at an average speed of 26 km/h.
The following year, he left Maino and headed to Bianchi, at the request of Erminio Cavedini, the team manager, who was crazy about him. On 25 April 1915, five men were jostling for the decisive sprint. Girardengo succeeded, again, ahead of Roncon, Bordin, Corlaita and Aimo.
In 1919 and in 1920, he nailed two other sprint victories.
By then, “Gira” was already the most successful rider in the history of this race, but that was still not enough for him. In the end, all the greatest champions share the same indomitable will to win – at any time, and on any type of terrain. So he saved his greatest achievement for his last victory, on April 15, 1923.